The Two-Way Street

BY DR LEAH MONTGOMERY, Shaughnessy Veterinary Hospital

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In veterinary medicine, the relationship between the veterinarian and the pet client exists so that the doctor can help the owner keep their pets healthy so the client can benefit from the pet's company for as long as humanely possible.

The scenario is slightly different when the client is a breeder. Even though the breeder obviously wants — and needs — the cats to be as healthy as possible, the motivation behind that desire is based more on reproductive and "herd" health rather than focusing solely on the individual cat at all times.

It therefore becomes even more important for a breeder to cultivate and maintain a healthy relationship with their veterinarian. Having an excellent local vet can mean the difference between smooth sailing or frustration for the breeder.

This relationship between breeder and veterinarian should be based on mutual respect and trust — emphasis on the word "mutual".

Ideally, the vet and the cat breeder learn from each other . . . and work as a team to provide the best care for the cats. But how does a breeder find the right vet and foster a relationship that will be the most beneficial to the cats, the vet and the breeder alike?

Developing A First Impressions

  • The first step for a breeder in choosing a veterinarian should be to talk to other breeders in their area and find out which veterinarians they use, and if they are happy with the service.
  • If you don't have anybody that can give you a recommendation, I would suggest calling a few clinics in the area and just ask a few basic questions of the receptionist (for example, what are the clinic hours, ask them the age they recommend spaying a cat, etc). You don't really care what the answers are, you're just trying to get a "feel" for the practice. Jot down your first impressions based on that phone call.
  • Next, visit the clinics. Are they easy to get to? Lots of convenient parking? Go inside. Is the clinic clean, does the receptionist greet you in a friendly manner, etc. Buy a small bag of cat treats or a toy or a tin of food (you can never have enough!).
  • If the clinic isn't very busy at that time, introduce yourself, say you've just moved into the area (even if it's a lie) and ask for a tour. Find out what kind of emergency service the clinic offers, what sort of equipment they have on site.
  • Ask if the clinic offers a "meet the doctor" type of interview, where you would get a chance to meet the veterinarian and find out if s/he has experience dealing with your breed, what their specialty/interests are, how many breeders do they have in the practice, and is s/he is open to having a breeder as a client. You shouldn't have to pay for this meeting, but be prepared for it to be short and not during "prime time". If you do have to pay, ask if you can have the amount deducted off your first bill. It is perfectly acceptable for the veterinarian to charge for her time, especially if you don't return as a client.


Know How To Be A Good Client

So now you've (hopefully!) found a veterinarian you think you like and can work with. There are several things you can do to keep yourself on the "A" list.

Being nice to everyone at the practice will get you favors beyond your wildest expectations. You may think it's the doctor that runs the place — but in reality, if you're rude to the receptionists they are much less likely to help you out if you're in a bind.

The receptionists book the appointments and handle the phone messages. They decide what times to offer when you call with a problem, and whether your phone call gets put directly through to the doctor or stuck in pile of call-backs. Sounds cynical, but it's really true. I'm not saying you have to buy them flowers and candy, but just BE NICE. Get to know their names, don't be rude on the phone, thank them for their help. Be thoughtful by being on time for your appointment.

The Doctor

Once the staff is eating out of your hand, it's time to "butter up" the doctor.

Hopefully you've found a veterinarian that is open to learning new things, trying new things, and actually listening to what you have to say. As a vet, what is important to me are clients that respect my time and my knowledge. So be on time. If it looks like the day is busy then get to the point quickly. We can chat later — and please pay your bills promptly.

If you have some new treatment information you want me to look at, show me the references. I'm talking websites, email addresses of other experts in the field, articles in journals, etc. And give me a chance to read through it and do my own research. I have learned many interesting treatments and procedures and just little bits of trivia from my breeder clients — it really enriches my practice.

Breeder Discounts

Something you'll want to arrange at the first visit is what sort of "deals", if any, the practice will offer you as a breeder client.

A breeder arrangement can range from a percentage off each bill, discounted medications, "group rates" on various procedures (such as vaccines, early spay/neuters etc), or special "first visit" exams for people that purchase your kittens (if they stay in the area).

Often one of the best bonuses you can get as a breeder client is (unbilled) time with the vet.

In Conclusion

Veterinarians working with breeders need to be open to new ideas, flexible, and reasonable. The vet should be prepared to think and work "outside the box" and even spend a little more time doing research than s/he is used to. But cultivating a breeder-veterinarian relationship can also be very rewarding and can lead, in some cases, to life-long friendships.

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